BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Fletcher and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-119

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Christine Fletcher
Number
2005-119
Channel/Station
TV2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Desperate Housewives – promo – shown at 8.00pm during G-rated NZ Idol – sexual images and dialogue – promo allegedly unsuitable for screening during G-rated host programme and allegedly in breach of children’s interests

Findings
Standard 7 (programme classification) – majority of view that promo’s rating should have been PGR – AO according to minority – screened during G-rated host programme – upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – majority – material in promo discreet – sufficiently acknowledged children’s interests – minority – promo should have been rated AO – unsuitable for children – not upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] A promo for Desperate Housewives was broadcast on TV2 at about 8.00pm on 22 August 2005. It was screened during the G-rated programme NZ Idol. The promo was rated G by the broadcaster.

Complaint

[2] Christine Fletcher complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about the image in the promo of a scantily-clad woman “gyrating” on top of a man in bed who was naked from the waist up with a sheet covering his lower body. She also complained about the image of the same woman in a “very suggestive pose” being lifted onto a dining table by another man who was also naked from the waist up. She expressed concern about the accompanying dialogue and contended that it was distasteful and offensive to broadcast a “raunchy sexually based” promo for an AO-classified drama during a G-classified show which would have attracted family viewers.

[3] Nominating the specific standards which the promo was considered to have breached, Mrs Fletcher said that her family was aware of the classifications and she expressed concern at the images which were now apparently considered suitable for children.

Standards

[4] TVNZ assessed the complaint against the nominated standards in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 7 Programme Classification

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programmes are appropriately classified; adequately display programme classification information; and adhere to time-bands in accordance with Appendix 1.

Guidelines

7b  Broadcasters should ensure that all promos (including promos for news and current affairs) are classified to comply with the programme in which they screen (“host programme”). For example:

  • promos for AO programmes shown outside Adults Only time must comply with the classification of host programme
  • promos shown in G or PGR programmes screening in AO time must comply with the G or PGR classification of their host programme

7c  Broadcasters should consider the use of warnings where content is likely to offend or disturb a significant proportion of the audience.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times, broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] TVNZ accepted that the G-rated promo would have been unsuitable for screening during the afternoon. However, although NZ Idol was classified G, TVNZ stated that the lyrics of the songs sung during the show and the singers’ performances included sexual themes. Moreover, most episodes of Desperate Housewives were rated PGR.

[6] TVNZ acknowledged that the promo carried an implication of sexual activity and that the voice-over was suggestive. However, it continued, there was no nudity shown and the dialogue would “go over the heads of children who are sexually innocent”.

[7] Expressing surprise that the complainant’s children were alarmed as the promo contained neither violent nor sinister material, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint. It considered that the promo was suitable in the context of a G-rated host programme given the time at which it was screened.

Referral to the Authority

[8] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mrs Fletcher referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[9] Mrs Fletcher disputed TVNZ’s argument that the G rating for NZ Idol was different to the G rating for a programme aimed at very young children. The Television Code, she pointed out, did not draw that distinction. She maintained that TVNZ’s admission that the broadcast of the promo during the afternoon could amount to a breach was an acknowledgement that it breached the Code.

[10] As for TVNZ’s comment that popular music contained sexual references, Mrs Fletcher said that the content of popular music varied and TVNZ, by classifying NZ Idol as G, had assumed that certain standards would be maintained.

[11] As for TVNZ’s comment that NZ Idol’s judges frequently urged competitors to be more “overtly sexual”, Mrs Fletcher maintained that such comments were suitable for family viewing. She concluded:

By TVNZ’s own written admission, it seems my complaint would have been upheld if the trailer had been shown during a morning or afternoon ‘G’ rated programme. Given this admission, not upholding my complaint on the basis of there being different ‘sorts’ of ‘G’ programmes within children’s normal viewing hours, makes an absolute nonsense of programme classification and renders them insufficient in assisting parents and caregivers who are interested in protecting young children from inappropriate images.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[12] In its response, TVNZ argued strongly that the G classification, like the AO classification, varied to some extent as the programming during the day and into the evening was directed at younger children at first and later to family viewers. It maintained:

It is our submission that the programme trailer for Desperate Housewives was not unsuitable for inclusion in a music programme classified “G” screening after eight o’clock at night. We considered it a “G” promo because of an absence of anything explicitly sexual. Sexual innuendo is not banned for G programming – as viewers of programmes such as Neighbours, Friends and The Simpsons would recognise.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[13] Mrs Fletcher acknowledged that not all G-rated programmes were expected to appeal to children. The point she wanted to make, she wrote, was that G-rated programmes were expected not to contain material that would cause alarm or distress to children. As for TVNZ’s comment in regard to sexual innuendo in G-rated programmes, Mrs Fletcher said that she could view such programmes and then decide whether they were suitable for her family. However, that was not possible with promos which could be “aired at the broadcaster’s whim”. She concluded:

It is my submission that TVNZ did not consider the interests of child viewers when choosing the content and host programme of the AO promo detailed above, and therefore failed in its responsibility to maintain Standards 7 and 9 of the code of broadcasting practice.

Authority's Determination

[14] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[15] The Authority’s initial task is to assess the appropriateness of the G classification given to the promo for Desperate Housewives broadcast at 8.00pm on 22 August. The Television Code defines G as:

Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but must not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.

[16] While it accepts that G-rated promos do not have to be designed for child viewers, the Authority does not agree with TVNZ that this promo was correctly rated G. It reaches this decision in view of the sexual themes contained in the promo.

[17] A majority of the Authority considers that a PGR rating would have been appropriate, as the sexual themes were dealt with relatively discreetly, and would probably not have been understood by younger children. A minority (Tapu Misa) disagrees. In view of the sexual innuendo and unambiguous sexual interaction shown, she contends that the promo dealt with an adult theme and that an AO rating was necessary.

[18] The Authority’s variation in views does not affect its overall decision on the programme classification complaint. In view of the specific direction contained in guideline 7b – that the rating of a promo must comply with the rating of the host programme – the broadcast of a promo classified either PGR or AO during a G-rated host programme breaches Standard 7. The Authority therefore upholds the complaint that the broadcast of the promo complained about breached Standard 7.

[19] The Authority is also divided in its decision as to whether the broadcaster failed to consider the interests of children pursuant to Standard 9. The majority considers that while the promo should have been classified as PGR, the broadcaster took children’s interests into account by including only discreet material in the promo, and by broadcasting it at 8.00pm, in the PGR time-band.

[20] The minority, on the other hand, argues that the broadcaster failed to consider the interests of children by showing a promo which should have been classified as AO in view of its adult themes, during a G-rated programme such as NZ Idol which was clearly targeted at families and popular with children of all ages. Even if the promo was correctly rated as PGR, she contends that its themes would still have made it inappropriate for showing during NZ Idol, especially in light of the new provisions of Standard 7, which recognise the importance of the host programme in determining when to show promos.

[21] A majority of the Authority nonetheless declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 9.

Bill of Rights

[22] For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching this determination. For the reasons given above, the Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of a promo which should have been classified as PGR, during a G-rated host programme, on 22 August 2005 breached Standard 7 of the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The Authority declines to uphold any other complaint.

[23] Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose an order under ss.13 or 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to impose an order on this occasion in view of the recent change to the Free-to-Air Television Code. Because of concerns about the content of promos and the applicable standards raised both by complainants and broadcasters over a number of years, the Authority held discussions with representatives from broadcasters and the community about their placement. The parties agreed that an amendment to guideline 7b was appropriate and the change became effective from 1 July this year.

[24] In view of the Authority’s majority ruling as to the promo’s correct classification, its broadcast on this occasion would have complied with the former guideline, as it was broadcast during the PGR time-band. It failed, however, to comply with the recently amended provision. The Authority now expects TVNZ to comply with the amended guideline and notes that further breaches could result in the imposition of an order.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
28 November 2005

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

  1. Christine Fletcher’s Formal Complaint – 26 August 2005
  2. TVNZ’s response to Mrs Fletcher – 14 September 2005
  3. Mrs Fletcher’s referral to the Authority – 30 September 2005
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 18 October 2005
  5. Mrs Fletcher’s final comment – 30 October 2005